BY GARY ANDRES
Reprinted from Weeklystandard.com
Last week’s anemic jobs report came as a sobering reminder that America’s economic malaise shows little sign of slowing. Overall non-farm payrolls shrunk by 95,000 in September, while private sector hiring decelerated for the third consecutive month. High unemployment is now an acute national headache that won’t go away.
As the economy suffers this employment migraine, its causes come into sharper focus. Instead of providing relief, President Obama and his party have aggravated an already grim employment picture.
Job creators apparently pushed the pause button. Why?
Obviously a host of factors contribute to the equation. But two reasons – both produced in Washington – deserve mention: uncertainty and divisive rhetoric. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress peddle large dollops of both. Together they produced the real party of no: The Party of No Jobs.
First, consider uncertainty. Businesses cannot plan effectively in the current environment.
Doubt about future tax policy is a case in point. The Democratic majority adjourned to campaign without providing any clarity. No one knows what a post-election lame duck session might concoct. As a result, income taxes, capital gains, dividends and a host of other expiring business incentives are all hostage to congressional fiat.
It’s possible nothing happens this year – meaning, major tax increases on income, savings and investments on January 1. Uncertainty on the tax front is higher than it’s been in at least the last decade. Job creation suffers in this environment.
Health care and environmental regulation also contribute to the uncertainty. The Obama administration continues to implement portions of the health care law. We hear new stories every day about premium increases and employers changing coverage. Major upheaval in this sector of the economy also clouds the jobs picture.
Questions about the Democrats’ plans on the environmental regulatory and legislative front produce even more doubt. The administration’s alacrity when it comes to using the power of Washington to step into the affairs of private business is well known. The White House might even redouble its efforts to impose new requirements in the air, water, and energy producing sectors, particularly if Democrats lose the majority in Congress.
But uncertainty is only one front in this war. The president’s own rhetoric also creates unnecessary and harmful divisions – an “us” vs. “them” mentality that polarizes the country. Taking on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over allegedly using foreign money for campaign contributions is just the most recent example.
Speaking at the World Business Forum in New York last week, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch summed up the view of many in corporate America, saying the Obama administration is “just plain anti-business.”
Americans want a president that brings the country together, a leader who tries to unify, not divide. But, instead, Obama serves up fiery, campaign-like speeches fingering business leaders as boardroom bogeymen, not job creators.
Public policy is often a zero sum game; it produces winners and losers. But it’s not necessary for the president and Democrats in Congress to blame everything that ails us on “big oil,” “Wall Street,” “greedy insurance companies” or “the rich.”
That kind of rhetoric might have a place in an election, but this president and his allies in Congress brought the permanent campaign to daily governing. This is very jarring to many Americans.
The tone and language may be appropriate for a liberal community organizer, but not the leader of the free world – someone that wants to spur economic confidence and increase business investment that produces jobs.
The Democrats’ war on jobs is also producing a political backlash of historic proportions. Last week Gallup noted that 54 percent of likely voters now identify as conservative – up from 42 percent in the last midterm election. And 57 percent of likely voters identify as Republicans (including those who say they lean toward the GOP), compared to 45 percent in 2006.
But beyond politics, uncertainty and divisive rhetoric produce other, more pernicious, job-killing results. News reports over the last month also show that American companies are sitting on record amounts of cash. Instead of investing in creating new employment, many keep their money idle, waiting to see if the fog of political war will ever lift.
The November election should clear up some of this uncertainty. Voters may collectively clip the wings of the Democrats, thus avoiding the most extreme excesses of the current one party rule in Washington. But the current occupant of the White House also needs to understand that an economy will not produce jobs when the president wages war against those that create them.
Editor’s Note: Gary Andres is Vice Chairman of Research for Dutko Worldwide and writes a weekly column for the Weekly Standard and the Hearst Newspapers.